Malala Book Launch Halted In Pakistan

Organizers abandon the event amid ‘political and police pressure’ in Malala’s home province of Peshawar.

Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty,AAMIR QURESHI

Pakistani academics have been forced to cancel plans to launch Malala Yousafzai’s memoir in her home province, claiming they came under pressure from local government ministers and the police.

Malala has become an international icon of resistance to the Taliban after being shot for her campaign to get more girls into school, but she is a divisive figure at home where she is widely suspected of being a Western stooge.

Sarfraz Khan, director of the Area Study Centre at the University of Peshawar, said he received telephone calls from two provincial ministers asking him not to go ahead with Tuesday’s launch.

They include a figure from Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice and one from its coalition partner, Jamaat-i-Islami, a religious party.

Mr Khan said he had to cancel the launch after police said they would not be able to provide security and served him with an order banning the event.

“All we want is a normal campus life with the free exchange of ideas,” he said, dismissing the order as illegal. “This has nothing to do with ministers or the provincial government. We are independent and autonomous.

“It is part of our work to read books and discuss them.”

The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of the 15-year-old campaigner in 2012 as she returned from school in the Swat Valley.

Commanders have also threatened to attack shops that stock her book, “I am Malala”—although it has not acted upon them.

That hardline stance has permeated mainstream opinion.

There is widespread envy that Malala has been allowed a visa for Britain when many other victims of terrorism have no such escape route. Many take it—along with her visits to the United Nations—as evidence that she was part of a foreign plot to introduce secular, Western values to the Muslim country.

Imran Khan took to Twitter to distance his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from the move.

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“I am at a loss 2 understand why Malala’s book launch stopped in Peshawar. PTI believes in freedom of speech/debate, not censorship of ideas,” he said.

Inayatullah Khan, the provincial local government minister, denied putting pressure on the university.

“I never spoke to anyone regarding the book launching programme,” he told Dawn newspaper.